Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt's 18-year professional singles career ended at the hands of Ferrer.Getty Images

Lleyton Hewitt was sent spiralling into singles retirement following a three sets defeat on his final Australian Open appearance to David Ferrer in Melbourne. Hewitt showed the hunger and desire that has defined his 20-year career but was unable to prolong his swansong as the number eight seed prevailed 6-2 6-4 6-4.

The 34-year-old will partner Sam Groth in the men's doubles in what could be his final competitive match, against eighth seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers, but defeat to Ferrer brings an end to a singles career that included two grand slam titles – at Wimbledon and the US Open – as well as 80 weeks as world number one.

"I came out and gave everything I could as always – I can be proud that all throughout my career I have given 100%," the Adelaide-born right-hander told the crowd. "It is not hard in front of great spectators like these on the Rod Laver Arena, I am lucky to have done this for 20 years.

"I don't think it will sink in until later this week. I have had a fantastic last month on tour – playing in nearly every major city in this country. It means so much for me. Playing for Australia has always been the greatest honour for me and it is great to finish it all here."

Hewitt's departure from the draw was the highest profile exit from the men's competition as the seeded players dominated on day four in Melbourne. Ferrer will face American Steve Johnson in round three ahead of a potential duel with John Isner, who overcame Marcel Granollers. Feliciano Lopez came through a gruelling five-set match with Guido Pella, eventually winning 6-4 in the fifth after four sets went to a tiebreaker.

Stanislas Wawrinka remains on course for a semi-final meeting with Andy Murray after cruising through to the last 32 with a straight sets win over Radek Stepanek. There were similarly emphatic results for Milos Raonic and Viktor Troicki, who will face-off for a place in the fourth round.

The women's draw saw the seeds take command, but the day was not without its surprise results as 19th seed Jelena Jankovic was ousted by Laura Siegemund of Germany in three sets. The former world number one led by a set but lost a second set tiebreaker before going down 6-4 in the third.

The in-form Victoria Azarenka blew away Danka Kovinic for the loss of just three games while Angelique Kerber is also safely through, overcoming Alexandra Dulgheru. Elsewhere, there were wins for Madison Keys over Yaroslava Shevdova and Ana Ivanovic against Anatasija Sevatova.